The relationship with my scale is as precarious as two teenagers in heat. Sure, as long as everyone is doing what they’re told and playing by the rules, it’s all butterflies and hand jobs. But inevitably, someone wanders outside the lines, the mutual trust is broken, someone’s head swivels, and the next thing you know it’s all death threats and restraining orders. But I can’t walk away. I am tethered to this uncertainty. This is my life as a fat girl. This is the life of someone trying so desperately to be something else. To be thin. To be normal. To be accepted. To be anything but what we are. We can turn on a dime. We can flip the switch from rage to sage in five seconds flat. And it all depends on one thing: that smooth, slick bastard of a scale in the corner of my bathroom.
There are only thirty-seven steps between my bed and my scale. I know this, because every morning, before my eyes even fully open, I take that journey. Some days, when I have been good the night before, and I can feel my skin loose and a pocket of air under my feet, the walk is more of a skip. It’s a journey made with baited breath, with hopes high and fingers crossed. It’s like having a boy slip his hand under your shirt for the first time, or sneaking out with your girlfriends at three o’clock in the morning.
Then, there are nights when I fuck up. When I slip and allow a hot fudge sundae or a dozen 10-cent garlic parmesan wings past my lips and the next morning my skin feels like sausage casing stretched over layers of fat and gristle and I can barely drag my pork loin legs to the floor. Those are the mornings when the world is heavy and nothing comes easy. Those are the mornings when I have to stop myself from smashing my scale into a billion pieces with a sledgehammer and lying on the ground while the remaining shards float down over me like ash.
It all starts with a routine, a series of rituals I perform before the actual weighing can commence. I climb from the warmth of my bed, walk those thirty-seven steps across my tattered Berber carpet, empty my bladder of every last drip drop, strip off every last inch of clothing, exhale every last bit of breath from my lungs, and slide my bare feet onto the scale’s belly. I am a slave reporting to my master. I am a prisoner of the war within myself. A war that, since its inception, has divided, conquered, and crushed my self esteem, my sense of self, and all the parts of my brain that those skinny, regular girls have intact.
But on a cold September morning in my school house loft, the hundred years war inside of me screeches to a halt. I begin that thirty seven step journey, as I always do, but today I know immediately that something is different. My steps are lighter. The air smells sweeter. The birds outside my window are chirping a Beach Boys tune. Through my window burns the light of a thousand suns. There is something special about this day. I close my eyes and begin the routine: pee, strip, exhale, pee again (just in case). My feet stick to the white plastic and nothing in the world moves, not even my heart, as the cherry red needle begins its ascent in the three inch wide window. One hundred, one twenty, one thirty, impossible numbers, numbers I will only someday dream about are left in the dust as the red pioneer forges forward. One forty, one fifty, one sixty, the pace begins to slow, one sixty two, one sixty three, a plunge towards one seventy, then a ping pong back. Finally, the needle settles. One sixty-five. Goal. I have reached my goal.
Suddenly, the world is thrust back into motion. My heart bursts with blood, breath blows back into my lungs, my body shakes, and my eyes well up. I step from the scale, stand against the white wall, and slide to the ground. I pull my knees in tight to my chest and sob. Almost a year ago, I was divorced and morbidly obese. I was heartbroken and scared. I was alone and not sure if I would ever be okay, ever again. I cried every night for weeks, I drank like a fish, made really bad decisions, wore some questionable clothing, and smoked like a car wreck. And then, maybe because of some cosmic plan or just a really good deal on the joining fee, I tumbled like a stone into a Weight Watcher’s meeting and wrote 165 in that little box marked: GOAL.
And now, that number is tangible. I can feel it poking into my newly discovered rib cage, brushing against my protruding collarbones, pressing against my slimming thighs. I have made it. I have gotten here. I haven’t achieved very many things in my life. I have a dozen “before” pictures, but never an “after”. I never ran a marathon, competed seriously for and landed a job, birthed a child, or finished Super Mario Brothers 3, but this is something I’ve done. I’ve lost a hundred pounds, finally, and for real. In that moment, it is as if a river has been released inside of me, and floating down that river are the moments I remember most about being fat: Being rejected by boys, the whispers of coworkers at work, the constant disappointment on my parents’ faces, Jack walking out the door.
Then, there is a moment so raw and painful I have to close my eyes as it floats to the surface. At the absolute lowest point in my life, when I felt nothing but FAT and I could barely stand to look at myself, I put my body into a tub of hot water and I sank. I sank until the suds covered my bulging belly and breasts, until my three chins were submerged. I sank until the steaming liquid slipped into my ears, pulled my hair, and wrapped around my mouth. Down, down, down. I closed my eyes, and felt myself slip under. I wasn’t scared. I was relieved. I pressed the sides of the tub, forcing my body to stay submerged. I wanted to disappear from the planet, to wash away what I was. To erase the stain of me. Now, on this cool September morning, all of those painful memories flop around on my bathroom floor, like waterless fish, gasping for air.
I want to tell the world about my accomplishment. I want to fling open the windows of my loft apartment and scream until the little dangly thing at the back of my throat wear raw red. I want to be one of those girls that has something, anything to brag about. Instead, I fill my cracked plastic bathtub with hot water and slip into the soapy white basin. All these years later, the water covers my whole body effortlessly. I close my eyes, feel the warmth against my skin and remember what it was like, all those years ago, to feel an urge to let go and slip under the slick skin of the water. I am so far from that place, I think to myself. I am floating.
**This excerpt has appeared on my author website previously. www.amyearcher.com